Fumiko Miyachi: Transitional Metal

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A brass band features on this but the title refers not to the composition of their instruments but (as the merest glance at the sleeve would inform) is inspired by the Periodic Table of the elements.

This is decidedly modern music that fans of more traditional classical music could get a grip on from the start. The opening piece Co27 (Cobalt) features Miyachi and Kate Halsall playing a piano duet (they’re known as the Cobalt Duo, which has as nice a ring to it as the Glimmer Twins and Chemical Brothers).

While it has a couple of moments of modernistic jarringness (is that a word?) it’s fairly mellow albeit speeding up towards the end, the four hands giving it a pleasing complexity.

Some modern albums start off announcing their bold intentions from the off; this seems to be Miyachi saying that while she wants to sound fresh, she’s also traditional (ie you don’t need gird yourself for battle before listening).

This is followed by two Shakespeare songs, (or it could be Two Shakespeare Songs) written for some of Miyachi’s students at Birmingham Conservatoire, the two sonnets “Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war / How to divide the conquest of thy sight” and “Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took / And each doth good turns now unto the other” being provided by the tuba player. The lively but simple piano is accompanied by clarinet and there are haunting vocals supplied by Suzie Purkis (who has performed at Buxton Festival Opera).

Ag47 (Silver) is next, the second piano duet written for Cobalt Duo. A delicate piece with a lot of silence, it is loosely based on variation form. In the first section, the first player stays on the high inside strings with the second player on the keys. In the second section, the roles are switched and in the final part, both players settle on the keyboard together.

C12 (no carbon in brackets as it was the first elemental piece written, and carbon is not a metal anyway) is more “modern” sounding but sticks to 4/4 and is more akin to a slow modern jazz section that avant garde classical.

The final piece, Au79 (Gold) was Miyachi’s first attempt at writing for brass band, following a chance meeting with an enthusiastic Scottish brass band player. The three movements, featuring Birmingham Conservatoire Brass under Ian Porthouse, follow a fast-slow-fast format, but sounds more Copland than best of brass.

Overall, a modern, crisp collection of work but quite approachable and personable.

Out on Divine Art, MSV 28563.


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